Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration: The View from the Mall

People stretching as far as the eye could see.

I like the folks that make their own stuff best.

And yes we did learn from Woodstock. Lots of potties!

First, there were tons of people, mobs of people, unending streams people, packed like sardines on the Mall.

I have spent a lifetime in this town, and there has never been anything close to this before.

How many people were there? I have no idea, but there were more people than the space could hold, and even more lining the parade route. It was staggering.

There were miles and miles of buses, old people, young people, folks pushing strollers, folks in walkers, and folks in wheelchairs. There were families, friends, church groups, students, retirees ... White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American ... It was unbelievable.

And despite the choke points created to enter the Mall (choke points that seemed to have no real purpose), it was completely orderly. I doubt there was a single arrest. Everyone was happy and was helping each other, and no one was jumping lines or barriers. It was like everyone had just taken a course from Miss Manners and read a pamphlet on how to behave nicely in a crowd.

Five of us -- my brother and his son, and myself and my son, and a friend of my folks' from California, started off in the dark and in the cold at 6:30 am, and we were still late getting off the mark compared to everyone else. The streets were already streaming with people.

We were on the mall by 7:30 am, but it was already getting crowded. No matter. We would wait for the start of the ceremony at around 11.

While we waited, 21 jumbo-trons on the Mall showed the concert that I had missed on Sunday -- Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, U-2, Garth Brooks, Wyclef and Shakira, Stevie Wonder and the rest. Excellent. The crowd was getting pumped even as the cold began to really set in.

And yes it got pretty cold. In the end, I was in the cold for nine hours, seven of them not moving from a location except to stamp my feet which, by the end, were frozen to the bone.

But it was worth it, and everyone in the crowd felt the same way. This was history, this was hope, and God knows we need a little of that now that the Republican party and George W. Bush has left us with a collapsed economy, a staggering debt we will be generations paying, a war we should never have been in, scores of thousands of injured and disabled soldiers, a diplomatic corps in rags, and a Constitution in tatters.

Barack gave a wonderful speech, and he pulled no punches despite the fact that the disastrous leadership he was replacing was standing less that 20 feet away.

Barack reminded us all that we were eight years getting into this mess, and we will not be out of in in eight days, or eight weeks, or even eight months. We have a lot of work ahead.

But on the mall today, no one doubted that we finally had a smart, good and honorable man in the job. Or that George W. Bush has been the worst President in the history of this great nation.



Seahorse said...

By any measure, this was a breath-taking day. We were riveted as we watched the return of intelligence and grace to The White House. Yes, recovery may be long and hard, but I have finally exhaled, feeling confident we'll get back to our true selves, and hopeful that decency will rear up with a vengence.

Seahorse---> Happy at last!

Anonymous said...

Our long national embarrassment is finally over.

Hope those morons in Congress don't screw things up as usual. I see that Republican partisanship has already reared its ugly head.

M Evans

Dan & Margaret said...

As of this morning the reports are still zero arrests. That's more like a Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup parade (and yes, they draw more than a million), than an inauguration.. (as opposed to an "inaugeration") ;o)

PBurns said...

Public skoolz. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it. I'm the victim here ;)


Katie said...

I can only imagine how amazing it must have been to be a part of that.